Past Eco Scholars

The Eco Scholar program has been offered for a number of years.

Please read below for information on some of our most recent Eco Scholars.

2019 Eco-Scholars

Heather Beach B.Sc. Agriculture – University of Guelph


I grew up in Picton, in the scenic Prince Edward County, ON. I enjoyed nature and visiting the county’s farms. I have worked and volunteered on ecological market garden and livestock farms in Ontario, as well as in Sweden and France during my recent studies abroad.

I am passionate about agriculture as it offers the opportunity to be involved in addressing issues of social justice, nutrition, and the environment.

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Mbonella Phiri-Nkomo Environment, Health and Nutritional Sciences – University of Toronto

Born, raised, and socialized in Zambia where subsistence organic farming is a way of life, I am a 55 year old multilingual student who returned to part-time academia after a 14-year hiatus.

My undergraduate double major degrees are in Environment, Health and Nutritional Sciences and my aspirations are to own an off-the-grid Earth-ship and to speak about how regenerative sustainability positively impacts human and environmental health.

The food I eat, my backyard gardening practices, my indoor and outdoor living environments, my home management strategies as well as my personal care regimen are all predominantly organic.

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Karthika Sriskantharajah  Ph.D , Plant Agriculture – University of Guelph

I am a Ph.D. student at the department of Plant Agriculture and an Arrell scholar at the Arrell Food Institute at the University of Guelph. Currently I am working with Dr. Jayasankar Subramanian’s research group, with the aim of ‘how to reduce the postharvest losses of apple’ using hexanal, a natural plant-based product known to slow spoilage.

During my undergraduate in Sri Lanka and Masters’ in Japan, I have evaluated the impacts of various climate factors on sweet potato and rice production respectively.

Later, I worked with international groups such as Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International (CABI) and trained more than thousand women farmers in the war affected northern Sri Lanka to produce biological pesticides, fertilizers and clean seeds.

I strongly believe in ‘Knowledge Mobilization’ to create and transfer innovative ideas. My ambition is to mobilize my knowledge and skills to the farming community to enhance healthy and environmentally friendly food production.

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Conner Platten  B.Sc. Agricultural Business – Dalhousie University

My name is Conner Platten, I’m originally from Edmonton, Alberta, and am currently pursuing an Agricultural Business Degree at Dalhousie University.

My academic interests lie in sustainable agricultural systems and aquaculture. When I’m not studying or working on projects you’ll find me skiing, cycling, cooking, or hanging out with my cat, Ice Tre.

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Tanner O’Hanlon  B.Sc. Organic Agriculture – University of Guelph

I am a fourth year University of Guelph student studying agriculture. I have always wanted to be an ecological farmer since I was a child and growing up in suburban Guelph.

I have created my own little farm in my back yard, where I tend a large garden and raise ducks and chickens. I can see myself in the future owning a small -scale farm and building a career in nutrient management and soil science.

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2018 Eco-Scholars

Emily Gilbert, Cultural Anthropology – University of Toronto

Emiy Gilbert - 2018 Guelph Organic Conference Eco ScholarI am a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Toronto in a collaborative program between the School for the Environment and the Department of Anthropology. My research examines food insecurity in an urban Canadian context. In January 2018, I will be beginning a year of ethnographic fieldwork where I will be working in food banks and community gardens in Regent Park, Toronto.

I see myself making a career in organics because my research focuses on the impacts and uses of urban gardens in alleviating the racialized, gendered, and class realities of Canadian food insecurity. Organic gardening is helping to foster links across previously marginalized sections of the population.

I will be working with these community gardens, as well as in the food banks who prepare the food obtained from them, during my fieldwork. Organic gardening as a social and public health strategy for alleviating social marginalization in an urban context is a key component of the dissertation that I will write once my fieldwork is complete.

As one in a collaborative Ph.D. program, I see the necessity for interdisciplinary learning and relationship building, specifically in relation to the issues that my work addresses: poverty and the environment.

Sharita Henry, Environment & Business – University of Waterloo

Sharita Henry - 2018 Guelph Organic Conference Eco ScholarIn the spring of 2018, I will be moving to the east shore of Georgian Bay to start and run a CSA on 200 acres of farmland (I will be starting with 1 cultivated acre). This will be a huge undertaking for me, and as a proponent of sustainability and environmental care, I am hoping to run the whole operation organically.

With a background in Environment and Business, I am very excited to be able to combine my love of agriculture with business and run a profitable organic farm. This is something that I have been planning for 2 years, and now I feel I am ready to take the steps to learn more about how to be successful in organics. I have also managed the University of Waterloo’s Campus Market Garden for 4 years.

At this new homestead, I will also be coordinating and running educational programs about small-scale farming, market gardening, and the importance of organic agriculture. I recognize the scale of this endeavor that I am undertaking, but as a young Ontarian, I really do see a need for increasing activity in organic food production. I want to start up this CSA correctly, and for me, a huge part of that is doing it organically. Long-term, I’m hoping to start a sustainable living community in Ontario, with tiny-homes, an organic farm, and apiaries.

Cassandra Masschelein, Integrated Science – McMaster University

Cassandra Masschelein - 2018 Guelph Organic Conference Eco ScholarOver the past year I became involved with the McMaster Student Union Service Mac Farmstand as a customer service representative. This service advocates for local food and the importance of eating seasonally. This experience offered me a platform to share with others the many benefits of local, seasonal, and organic produce.

As I had grown up on my family’s Ontario farm, this brought me back to my roots and reminded me of my passion for sustainable food. I have been hired to be the director of this service next season, and thus will be working closely with many organic and local farmers.

With this reconnection and my passion for cooking, I see myself making a career as an executive chef. I imagine myself running a fine dining vegetarian restaurant in Toronto, where the items on the menu are composed of local, seasonal, and organic ingredients – some of which I would grow myself on a small urban organic farm. This restaurant would make a difference in educating about the importance of caring for our environment, and how delicious and easy it can be.

 Julia Maxwell, International Development / Rural & Agricultural Development – University of Guelph

Julia Maxwell - 2018 Guelph Organic Conference Eco ScholarI was raised on a farm in rural Saskatchewan: a vast one thousand acres of grain crops interspersed with sloughs, poplar bluffs, little patches of native grassland, and the home quarter where my mother kept chickens, flowers, berries, and a thriving vegetable garden. Although my parents have always held a deep appreciation for the natural world, my father managed his fields the same way that all of his neighbours and peers did, with chemical pesticides and fertilizers.

As I grew, I began learning about the social and environmental issues plaguing our food system. I developed a keen interest in ecological growing, and food sovereignty movements. I worked and volunteered on a number of ecological farms, and enrolled in a university program focusing on food security. Through my studies and my lived experiences, I have fully come to believe that a healthy food system is the foundation of a healthy society.

Soon, I have to decide whether or not I want to take over the family farm. I know with all my heart that I want to be an ecological farmer, so I am doing everything I can right now to learn: taking classes, taking jobs, reading books, and doing workshops.

Receiving the eco-scholarship would be so valuable to me as I prepare for the transition.

Kitty RLynn (Lickers), Social Justice – Wilfrid Laurier University

Kitty RLynn - 2018 Guelph Organic Conference Eco ScholarI work at the Our Sustenance Program. We are based at Six Nations of the Grand River Territory.  We strive to provide access and education to healthy, whole food. My career here will continue to grow toward promoting organic growing and eating. This follows my community’s culture and history.

I am always seeking ways to promote and grow our program and show my community what is possible in reference to growing our own food.

I am doing a Masters in Social Justice because I believe that options to grow and have healthy whole food are a real positive change that I can help impact in the health and well being of my Indigenous community. The more skills I can gain to help that happen, the better.

The training at this year’s conference will be a real benefit to me. I want to gain the skills to both grow organics and also teach my community the skills to do that for themselves. The more we can share this, the better off we will be overall.

2017 Eco-Scholars

David Borish 2017 Eco Scholar Guelph Organic ConferenceDavid Borish, Epidemiology, University of Guelph

I am an MSc student researcher and documentary filmmaker uniting my talents in visual media with a drive to make positive social and environmental change through collaborative and community-based research.

My videos promote awareness about sustainable, eco-friendly solutions that address social and environmental issues worldwide. My productions include the award-wining “Tracks in a Tiger Economy”, a documentary film linking sustainable environmental development to Indigenous empowerment and tiger conservation in Malaysia.

I will continue to pursue a career as a research-based documentary filmmaker, with an aim to visually educate people about organic and eco-friendly solutions.

Sokhany Dosvanna 2017 Eco Scholar Guelph Organic ConferenceSokhany Dosvanna, Organic Agriculture, University of Guelph

Growing up in Cambodia, my diet was locally sourced rice, fish and greens.

A few years ago, I returned to my home town and learned that fish was no longer an affordable protein. An issue in many developing countries like Cambodia is local access to quality foods.

I will help to create small space and roof gardens that feed urban populations. In addition to managing my own organic farm with vegetables and livestock.

My goal is to work with small farmers to help them go beyond subsistence by growing a surplus to improve their livelihoods, create an organic demonstration garden and teach at the agriculture school, helping future generations.

Nuzhat Jillani 2017 Eco Scholar Guelph Organic ConferenceNuzhat Jillani, Associate Diploma in Agriculture, University of Guelph

“Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are” (Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, 1826).

My goal is to utilize my strong leadership and sales experience to raise consumer awareness about the importance of sustainable agriculture.

My journey and interest in organics began when I was searching for a lifestyle change as a way to heal. Along the way, I became passionate about wholesome foods and curious about food production.

This led me to the University of Guelph to study agriculture and this has inspired me to be a life-long learner. I believe we all deserve food, which is good for our health and the earth.

Shanthanu Krishna Kumar 2017 Eco Scholar Guelph Organic ConferenceShanthanu Krishna Kumar, Plant Agriculture, University of Guelph

I grew up on an organic farm in Coimbatore, India.

My organic education started with my grandfather teaching me to milk cows and grow okra and eggplants. I really got interested in the organic movement after my internship with Navdanya, India (founded by Dr. Vandana Shiva).

I am currently doing my Masters, working to enhance the shelf life of peaches using an organic chemical hexanal, at the University of Guelph.

I hope to serve organic growers with effective ‘Knowledge Translation and Transfer’ (KTT) and helping them to scale up their agricultural production, thus increasing the organic market share from 4% to 10% in the next 10 years (retail sales).

To read more about Shanthanu’s experiences at the conference as an Eco-Scholar please visit here.

Ben Morgan, Organic Agriculture, University of Guelph

Ben Morgan 2017 Eco Scholar Guelph Organic ConferenceI grew up on a conventional cash-crop farm in Bruce County, but with a great deal of exposure to organic practices.

I plan on a becoming a certified organic farmer and adopting no-till and diverse crop rotations with cover crops. Additionally I hope to provide crop consulting, offer custom work focused on organic harvesting and weed control, and eventually start an organic grain elevator to further increase the feasibility of organic production.

I know a lot of farmers who have expressed great interest in becoming organic. However, there is too much risk, largely because of a lack of knowledge, resources and infrastructure and concern for poor yields and pest issues. This is a deal breaker for most prospective farmers because of the risk.

2016 Eco-Scholars

Smiles at the Organic Food & Wine Dinner

 2016 Eco-Scholars

“I really found it inspiring to see farmers of all different backgrounds, experiences and goals to be able to come together and work on a vision not only for the future of their own farms but helping to craft what human relationship with agriculture will and should look like in the future. Getting to meet the other Eco-Scholars – Chantal, Emily and Anterra was great (having already known Emma).  Being able to share ideas with them and having the opportunity to now connect with them in the near future to see where they have taken their goals is very exciting.”
– Justin Maddalena, 2016 Eco Scholar

Read more about Justin’s experiences in this blog article he wrote.

2015 Eco-Scholars

2015 Eco Scholars

“I thoroughly appreciated my experience at the Guelph Organic Conference. The fact that I was an Eco-Scholar significantly enhanced the event’s impact for me. As a result, I would urge anyone who is at least interested in organics to apply for the scholarship. Be open to every learning opportunity no matter the topic!”
– Alex Sanders, 2015 Eco Scholar

Read more about Alex’s experiences in this blog article he wrote.